Love and Laughter Book List

A Valentine’s Day list of books that celebrate family love and wholesome romance.

It’s the season of hearts and flowers and chocolate. Valentine’s Day is a shameless commercial opportunity, but a holiday that celebrates love (the original meaning of St. Valentine) is a pretty neat idea, actually.  And it’s nice that it takes place in the middle of February, which is typically a gloomy month.  Commercially, the holiday has come to focus almost exclusively on L’amour! to the exclusion of familial, fraternal, and friendship love, so this month’s book list celebrates love, starting with the place most of us experience it first—in the family.

love and laughter book list

Love and Laughter Book List

The Frances Series by Russell Hoban.

  • Interestingly, Frances was first imagined as a little girl.  Illustrator Garth Williams saw her as a badger, and so she remains in our memory landscape today.  Her long-suffering parents may not always have followed her reasoning, but they allowed her room to express herself in her own inimitable style. Read our review.

Me & Mama by Cozy A. Cabrera.

  • Me and Mama works because it is a book that shows “I love you” rather than waxing poetic and eloquent. Read our review.

The Lulu series by Hilary McKay. 

  • This chapter book series features an only child who loves animals, problem-solving, her cousin Millie, and her parents. Read our review.

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr.

  • Astrid, the thunderbolt of Glimmerdal, charms readers as easily as she charms those around her in this delightful middle grades novel. Read our review.

Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary. 

  • Henry, the boy-next-door to Cleary’s more famous Ramona, gets his own set of adventures that boys may find more to their taste.

Anna Hibiscus series by Atinuke.

  • Anna Hibiscus takes us to West Africa.  The unusual setting, loving family, and artless protagonist make this chapter-book series a winner, especially for girls. Read our review.

*A Dragon Used to Live Here by Annette LeBlanc Cate.

  • In a whimsical tale within a tale, two royal children discover that their castle (and their own mother!) have a very interesting past. Read our review.

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

  • Based on the author’s own grandmother who grew up in 19th-century Wisconsin, high-spirited Caddie has delighted readers for over 70 years. Read our review.

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall. 

  • In volume 1 of this modern classic, the four Penderwick girls have lost their mother to cancer.  In volume 2 they acquire another mother, with subsequent additions to the family.  The four books of the series (with a fifth and final one due this year!) sees the girls growing up, forming attachments, learning lessons, and solidifying their bonds.  Volume 5 promises a wedding, so stay tuned! Read our discussion of the series.

All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sidney Taylor. 

  • Sadly, we’ve never reviewed these books (and some of us have never read them!), but a series that has inspired both The Penderwicks and The Vanderbeekers has to have a lot going for it.  Published between 1951 and 1979, the series draws from the author’s experiences growing up in a Jewish family in turn-of-the-century New York City.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

  • Last year’s instant classic (and World magazine children’s Book of the Year), The Vanderbeekers charmed the pants off everyone who read it around here.  Five kids and their loving parents share love, laughter, and life lessons with the promise of more installments in the series. Read our review.

The Bastables series by E. Nesbit. 

  • My favorite is The Treasure Seekers, in which the poor-but-honest children of a bankrupt widower attempt to regain the family fortune.  Narrated by the imaginative, artless, and irrepressibly romantic older brother, they offer a glimpse into Edwardian society when Britannia ruled the waves. Read our review.

Seacrow Island by Astrid Lindgrin

  • The creator of Pippi Longstocking moves four children and their widowed father to a small island in the Balkan Sea, where they encounter wildlife, gruff neighbors, adventurous friends, and an eventual home.

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. 

  • Don’t be grossed out by the title (which you know your ten-year-old boy is gonna love), and don’t just watch the movie—the saga of Billy’s unfortunate bet and how he saw it through includes supportive, sympathetic parents and lots of heart.

They Loved to Laugh by Kathryn Worth. 

  • Originally published in 1942 (and still available in paperback), this little-known classic traces an orphaned girl’s adoption into a Quaker farm family with five (count ’em!) sons. Romance eventually develops, but not before plenty of challenges, growth, and (as promised) laughter.

*The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson.

  • In a debut novel reminiscent of Maud Hart Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder, a young girl discovers new friends, family, and hope. Read our review.

**List updated February, 2023.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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  1. Jamie on February 15, 2018 at 4:01 am

    Thanks so much for this list! Some I have heard of, and some are new to me. Just the other day I was searching the Internet for clean/wholesome books with love stories, and they are hard to find.
    I adore your website and come here often for book recommendations. I am a mom of three, one boy middle grades reader, a boy new brand new reader, and a 3 year old girl. I will add many of these to my own Goodreads list, and to the list I am compiling for my children.

  2. Erin on February 27, 2018 at 10:22 am

    YES!! Thanks so much for this list. I have a 9 year old daughter that is a voracious reader. It is so nice to have found your website which always offers up great reviews and suggestions for Christian parents. Thank you for all the work you do for me! I was excited about several books on this list I am not familiar with, but excited to try.

    Thank you again, and keep up the great work you do. I even just discovered that Janie writes and has books published. Looking forward to finding these books as well. I have used your website now several times to help me figure out what books I can safely guide my children to and topics to discuss with them as well. Much appreciated! Hope I can help others find your site as well.

    • Janie Cheaney on February 27, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      We’re so glad you found us, and look forward to your visiting over and over. And yes, if you can direct more readers our way, we appreciate it!

  3. Robyn Cooper on March 5, 2018 at 10:30 am

    Thanks so much for the ideas for good books! I run a small library, so these tips are helpful. This edition included a lot of typos for authors’ names though, which made for a little extra work for reserving them from the public library. 🙂

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